Why was Chuck Hagel skewered for taking money from an apparently nonexistent group?
This week, the dangers of the D.C. rumor mill were laid bare when New York Daily News reporter Dan Friedman posited that he was the unwitting source of a talking point used to bash Obama's embattled nominee to take over as secretary of defense.
Two weeks ago, Breitbart.com reported that Hagel had allegedly taken money from a group called "Friends of Hamas"-a tidbit that played into largely-GOP-voiced concerns over Hagel's opinions and record on Israel. The conservative news site attributed its reporting to unnamed Senate sources.
There's just one problem: Friends of Hamas doesn't seem to exist.
On Feb. 6, I called a Republican aide on Capitol Hill with a question: Did Hagel's Senate critics know of controversial groups that he had addressed?
Hagel was in hot water for alleged hostility to Israel. So, I asked my source, had Hagel given a speech to, say, the "Junior League of Hezbollah, in France"? And: What about "Friends of Hamas"?
The names were so over-the-top, so linked to terrorism in the Middle East, that it was clear I was talking hypothetically and hyperbolically. No one could take seriously the idea that organizations with those names existed - let alone that a former senator would speak to them.
Breitbart.com has responded, claiming Friedman's source was not its source. The Senate aide who told Breitbart about "Friends of Hamas" now says that "I have received this information from three separate sources, none of whom was Friedman," according to the site.